Rice Football heads to the state capital this week for a matchup with the Texas Longhorns in Week 3. How to watch, key stats, x-factor picks and more.
Both teams hope their second Southwest Conference reunion of the season turns out better than the first. Rice football fell to Arkansas in Week 1. Then Texas followed them with a loss to the Razorbacks in Week 2. Texas enters this game 1-1 with their win coming over a ranked Louisiana squad at home while Rice sits at 0-2 after falling to Houston their last time out.
Kickoff time | 7:00 PM CT
Venue | Darrel K Royal Stadium – Austin, TX
TV | Longhorn Network
Radio | Sports Map 94.1 (FM) / Stretch Internet (Online)
Audio / Visual Preview
We’ll preview Rice football vs Texas this week’s episode of the Blue and Gray Preview Show, streaming live on Wednesday at Noon on the Rice Athletics YouTube channel. You can also catch the recap of last week’s game on The Roost Podcast, which should be released shortly. Find us on the podcast page or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. (And consider leaving us a 5-star review while you’re at it.)
Sizing up the contenders
It’s been more than two years since Rice football last beat Texas, knocking off the Longhorns most recently in 1994. Should pull off the upset in Austin this time around, they’d push new head coach Steve Sarkisian to 1-2 and, turning grumblings generated from the Arkansas loss into a full-blown panic.
Reaching that point seems more even more daunting after last weekend’s dismal outing against Houston. But the Owls will find some solace in a reeling Texas team that doesn’t look nearly as invincible as it did after their opening weekend victory.
To some degree, the bulk of the pressure rests on Texas in this game. The Rice faithful expect clearly visible improvement. The struggles from the Houston game need to be rectified and this team needs to look competitive. Texas fans demand a win, preferably by a comfortable margin.
All Time | Texas leads 73-21-1
Last Five | Texas leads 5-0
Last Meeting | NRG Stadium 2019, Texas won 48-13
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Rice Stat Notables
Passing | McCaffrey – 14/29 (48.3 percent), 161 yards, 1 TD, 3 INT
Rushing | Griffin – 32 carries, 121 yards (3.8 yards per carry)
Receiving | Pitre – 4 receptions, 97 yards (24.3 yards per reception), 1 TD / Bailey – 5 receptions, 62 yards (12.4 yds/rec)
Tackles | Montero – 21 / Morrison – 14 / Schuman – 13
Pass Breakups/Interceptions | Smith, McCord – 2 PBU, Fresch – 1 INT
Texas Stat Notables
Passing | Card – 22/36 (61.1 percent), 285 yards passing, 2 TD, 0 INT
Rushing | Robinson – 39 carries, 172 yards (4.4 yards per carry), 2 TD
Receiving | Whittington – 12 receptions, 145 yards (12.1 yards per reception), 1 TD / Robinson – 5 receptions, 77 yards (15.4 yds/rec), 1 TD
Tackles | Overshown – 21 / Brockmeyer – 14 / Foster – 11
Interceptions/Pass Breakups | Cook – 2 PBU, Foster – 1 INT
Texas X-Factor | Quarterback
Hudson Card was named the Texas starter prior to the start of the 2021 season. He completed 14-of-21 passes for 224 yards and two touchdowns in the opener, effectively guiding the Longhorns to victory. He was much less composed in Week 2, compiling 61 yards on 8-of-15 passes before being benched in favor of Casey Thompson.
Thompson was more productive, primarily as a rusher. He scored twice on the ground and added 57 yards passing, but it came well after Arkansas had built a comfortable lead. Rice can sympathize about the struggles of finding consistent play at the quarterback position, but that doesn’t change the pressure the Texas coaching staff will be under this week.
Whether it’s Card or Thompson, someone is going to have to emerge for Texas to get into a rhythm along the lines of where they were in their opener. Whatever happened last week was not the answer for the Longhorns.
Rice X-Factor | Getting off the field
Last week against Houston, Rice was rather impressive on early downs and rather abysmal on third down. Try as they might, they just could not get off the field. The Owls allowed 3.3 yards per carry and 5.9 yards per attempt on first down. On third down, those numbers ballooned upwards to 12.8 yards per carry and 9.7 yards per attempt.
Houston converted 4-of-5 third downs of nine yards or more. For comparison, all five of the Owls’ third down conversions came with four yards to gain or fewer. Rice converted none of their third and long tries and only 38.5 percent of their total third down opportunities. Houston converted 61.5 percent, despite averaging almost a full yard more to-gain (8.1 to Rice’s 7.2) per attempt.
Rice did the right thing by forcing their opponent into third and long. They brought pressure, but Clayton Tune put the ball on the money, frequently finding his favorite target, Tank Dell. If Texas can assemble a similar third down performance, the Owls will be fighting a losing battle.
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Injury Report (Subscribers only)
The Roost’s 2021 Rice Football Season Preview has FIVE pages dedicated to every opponent the Owls face. There are depth charts, important new arrivals and positional breakdowns for every team in Conference USA sourced from local beat writers and sources on the ground who cover these teams every day. It’s the most thorough C-USA publication on the market.
One Final Thing
Playing with a “goldfish mentality” is something various members of the Rice defense have mentioned over time. It’s something we’ve seen this unit improve upon. After being picked apart down the field in Year 0 and showing signs of shellshock like Riec football head coach Mike Bloomgren mentioned in his postgame comments last week, they’ll need to return to that state of being with haste.
Like the fleeting memory a goldfish memory, the Rice defense has long preached their commitment to putting the last play behind them and focusing on the task at hand. If they’re going to show positive improvement from Week 2 to Week 3, it’s going to be one play at a time. That same will be true for the offense, which couldn’t put more than one extended driver together.
Both sides of the ball need to forget the Houston game in its entirety. They need to bring whatever mindest they entered the Arkansas game with. That mentality, although lacking perfect execution, got them to where they wanted: into the fourth quarter with the chance to pull off a big win.
Rice would happily take a 17-17 fourth quarter state again this time around. But even if they get there, they’ll need to find a way to finish it.
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